The Global Food Supply Chain in Flux

Current models are unsustainable, but new innovations offer promise.


Plant-based proteins can eventually give their conventional counterparts a run for their money not only in the U.S. and other industrialized economies, but in emerging economies too that are looking for cheap, efficient ways to feed growing populations.

As it turns out, plant-based food is also the way to go for salmon farming. Instead of feeding salmon food made from forage fish like anchovies, herring and sardines, Verlasso, a joint venture between DuPont and AquaChile, is using a plant-based alternative.

In a recent GreenBiz.com blog, journalist Marc Gunther explains that it takes four pounds of feeder fish to produce one pound of farm-raised salmon, which ends up introducing a new stress on the ocean’s wild fish stock. Verlasso uses genetically engineered yeast instead. It costs more, but it seems consumers are willing to pay for it.

DuPont polled consumers to find out if they would pay a premium for more sustainably produced salmon. Scott Nichols, the director of Verlasso, told Gunther that not only were consumers agreeable to paying more, “there was a cohort of consumers who were enthusiastic about it.”

Meanwhile, Rob Byrne, CEO of Terra Technology, believes better inventory management can go a long way in reducing a supply chain’s impact on the planet’s natural resources. Although reducing the carbon and water footprint of the transportation side of the business is important, the focus should really be on reducing inventory, he says.

According to Byrne, the amount of carbon and water embodied in the estimated $8 trillion of global inventory equals about 11 percent of the total annual global carbon emissions and 40 percent of global water use. Furthermore, inaccurate forecasting is responsible for much of the excess inventory that companies are holding and it translates to an enormous environmental and financial burden, says Byrne.

Procter & Gamble, a Terra Technology client, has taken over $1 billion in inventory out of its supply chain over the last two or three years. In January, Terra Technology launched an online Sustainability Calculator to help companies measure the impact of their inventory on the planet. The free tool is available at www.terratechnology.com/sustainability-calculator.

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